'Brainternet' project makes human brain an IoT node

September 22, 2017 //By Rich Pell
'Brainternet' project makes human brain an IoT node
In what is being called a major breakthrough in biomedical engineering, researchers at Wits University (Johannesburg, South Africa) have for the first time found a way to connect the human brain to the Internet in real time.

Dubbed the "Brainternet" project, the researchers say their system essentially turns the human brain "into an Internet of Things (IoT) node on the World Wide Web." It works by using electroencephalogram (EEG) "brain wave" signals from a device connected to a user's head and then converting them to an open source "brain live stream."

"Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems, " says Adam Pantanowitz, a lecturer in the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering. "There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person's understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity."

The system consists of a powered, mobile, Internet-accessible device - called the Emotiv EEG - that a user wears over an extended period. While being worn, the device transmits the user's EEG signals to a Raspberry Pi, which live streams the signals through an application programming interface (API) to a website portal where the data is displayed and available to be viewed.

"Ultimately," says Pantowitz, "we're aiming to enable interactivity between the user and their brain so that the user can provide a stimulus and see the response. Brainternet can be further improved to classify recordings through a smart phone app that will provide data for a machine-learning algorithm."

Looking ahead, he says, there could be information transferred in both directions – i.e., inputs and outputs to the brain. Future applications could lead to advances in machine learning and brain-computer interfaces.

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